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The Best of Living and Retiring in Ecuador

Giving You All the Resources You Need

Welcome (Bienvenidos) 

This is the place where I get to share all the favorite things I love about Ecuador. As a writer, I gain inspiration from the people I meet, the delightful sidewalk cafes where I sip cappuccino, and the festivals where we celebrate the joy of all things Ecuadorian. 


The Olympics Are Over - August 8, 2021

Ecuador can be proud of Richard Carapaz -- only the second Ecuadorian who has won gold in the Olympics. I'm sure there will be a statue built in his honor or maybe even a park named after him. What a tremendous sense of pride we felt as we saw him stand on the podium to receive the gold medal. We can only imagine what Ecuador will do in the future with a whole generation of kids looking to win gold in the Olympics. 

Until next time...hasta luego, 

Connie & Mark 

Nueva Catedral (new Cathedral) in Cuenca - First Stop  

It has and always will be my favorite place in Cuenca -- the Nueva Catedral and Tutto Freddo Heladeria (on the corner). It's where we first went for ice cream and the place I go when I'm in El Centro to meet people, to read a book, to people watch, to take pictures, and to live, breathe and enjoy Cuenca. 

If you're new to Cuenca, it should be the first place you visit as well. There are some great restaurants all around the area -- north, east, south and west. But the best part is to stand back and view the three blue domes (tres cupolas) from across the street. 

Enjoy exploring the best of Cuenca! 

Until next time...hasta luego! 

Connie and Mark 


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Expat Etiquette

Posted by Connie Pombo on October 15, 2011 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (629)




We have a unique place along the river with a window on the world—literally! Every room in our condo has a view of the Tomebamba and we enjoy the comings and goings of folks. We see some interesting things: car crashes, international soccer teams coming to stay at the Hotel Oro Verde next door, walkers/joggers/runners on the trail (just like clockwork) and an occasional “newbie” expat who is “fighting” the culture. 

 Yesterday while I was washing dishes, I saw a new gringo in town cursing out a taxi driver—shouting, screaming, waving his hands and making obscene gestures with his hands. Uh-oh, I guess no one told him that pedestrians don’t have the right away! He was crossing the street and expected the taxi driver to stop for him. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen taxi drivers brake for dogs, but not for humans which still babbles me.  Anyway, no one was injured!

Many expats come to Cuenca and expect things to run just like they did in America and when those two worlds clash there is often a visible sign of disgust or worse yet—a horrible scene (like yesterday).

Some of us have the ability to adapt more easily to a new culture than others. After living in Sicily for six years—where drivers have a death wish—this is truly paradise. Ecuadorians are mild mannered (except when they drive), soft-spoken and polite. What’s not to like? 

Expat etiquette is pretty simple:  treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Read some books on Ecuadorian culture and know what to expect in certain situations. Also, it’s important to integrate and not isolate. We’ve noticed that there are basically two groups of expats: those who just hang around with other expats and those who integrate. They develop a healthy respect for the Ecuadorian culture and involve themselves with events outside the expat community: volunteering their time at orphanages, teaching English or adopting an Ecuadorian family!


The language is a barrier for some and therefore they don’t even bother to learn Spanish, but the more time you spend time in immersing yourself, the greater the reward. Language learning is hard work. After the basics, it’s just plain memorization! Spanish has a lot of irregular verbs and “yes” they do use the subjunctive a lot, so that means getting out the 3x5 cards and doing your homework. In our Spanish class we have PhD professors, doctors and lawyers (highly intelligent people), but learning a new language has nothing to do with your IQ. Some folks just plain give up too early; it takes constant, continued work to get to the next level.

One recent visitor to Cuenca made an interesting observation:  “We have to be careful not to create our own ‘ghetto’ (meaning:  an isolated group). Involve yourself in activities other than just expat events, teach, volunteer and continue with language learning. 

Expat etiquette is more than just “minding your manners,” it goes much deeper than that. Thankfully, the isolated events like the one I mentioned above is the exception and not the norm.

Until next time…hasta luego!












Seattle in Cuenca?!?

Posted by Connie Pombo on October 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I thought I was imagining the whole thing until I heard one of the ESL teachers (at CEDEI) comment, “This weather makes me feel right at home!”

When I asked him where he was from, he said, “Seattle!”

September has been filled with a blanket of gray skies, but we’ve been too busy to notice what the weather’s been like! We have such a rich and full life that I hardly know what we did with all our time before we went back to school and Mark started teaching.


During the weekdays we’re in Spanish Class at CEDEI, Mark’s teaching English, and on the weekends we play—normally doing things with the students or teachers at CEDEI. It has brought us into an entirely new and exciting world. Most of the teachers at CEDEI are in their 20’s (having just finished college or working on their Masters ) and the other half are in their 50’s—many of whom travel the world teaching English. There’s no middle ground. Those who are in their 30’s and 40’s are still back in the States putting in their 20 years of hard labor so they can PLAY when they grow up!


Since I’m slated to teach in January, I’m trying to catch up on my writing and get to the next level in Spanish so I don’t sound like an 6th grader the rest of my life. Mark and I are not your typical expats, so please don’t follow our example!

I thought my writing was suffering (with all the activity) until I received two acceptance notices this week and one was from the Chicken Soup series. The book won’t be out until May 2012, but it’s the story of how we came to Cuenca (the roller coaster ride). Looking back on it, it was pretty “stormy” weather getting here, but now we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. I don’t envy any of you who are going through the packing, selling and getting here stage. But once you’re here, you’ll almost forget what you went through to get “south of zero”


If you find yourself talking about the weather in Cuenca, then it’s time to travel, study or volunteer. Yes, it’s a lot like “Seattle in Cuenca,” and probably not the best place to live if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, but one thing is for sure—you will never have to worry about heat or humidity!

Until next time...hasta luego!


For complete blog with pictures visit:  Living and Retiring in Ecuador

Birthdays in Cuenca

Posted by Connie Pombo on August 24, 2011 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (641)

Mark says I’m the only person he knows that can stretch a birthday into two months (or more!). I think he’s exaggerating a tad bit, but I have to say it started last month (middle of July) and it’s still continuing!

I’m in good company because there are more birthdays in the month of August than any other month (says Hallmark Greeting Cards). And I think that trend is continuing with all the pregnant tummies I’ve seen around Cuenca (including our neighbor—due any second). It's a girl ('s a secret).










My family started sending packages last month, which was a wonderful surprise. They sent a “coastal care package” which came in handy for our trip to the Puerto Lopez (beach bag, Bath and Body products and new clothes). And we celebrated my 56 candles at the Mandala with coconut ice cream instead of cake!








The one and only coconut ice cream Mandala style!







Recently we went out to the Victoria Hotel (El Jardin Restaurant) for a dinner with friends. Leeann and John are here for a month overseeing construction on their new home and it was their third anniversary, so we made it a grand celebration. Jim and Selene coordinated with the restaurant to have a cake with three candles delivered to our table for a combined birthday/anniversary celebration! By the way, if you want a lovely place to enjoy a special occasion, El Jardin is the place. The restaurant has a gorgeous view of the Barranco area (window seating) and the service is impeccable, complete with servers wearing suits, ties, and white gloves! The last time anyone served me with white gloves was on our 25th wedding anniversary cruise ten years ago.






















Happy 3rd Anniversary, Leeann and John!







Hotel Victoria on Calle Larga

 And then yesterday, the security guard stopped me and said, “Tengo un sobre para Usted!” (I have an envelope for you!). It was actually a package/envelope with memories of my Paris trip two years ago with my dear friend, Katerina. She even included a new Bath and Body fragrance “Paris Amour.” Can you tell we’re lacking Bath & Body products here in Cuenca? If someone wants to start a franchise in Ecuador, I’ll be your best customer!














Dos Amigas: "Katerina & Concetta"







We don't have the Eiffel Tower in Cuenca, but we have the Church of Turi all lit up at night!







Oh, the Paris pastries....(but Cuenca comes pretty close).

Later this week friends are taking us to the Yunguilla Valley for more celebrating and dinner at Bambu. Since Mark starts teaching “full-time” at CEDEI in September, we’re trying to get in as much celebrating as possible. Lots of blog readers are in town this month and more are due to arrive in September…so let the festivities continue.

Maybe this will be the year that I celebrate my birthday all year long!

Until next time…hasta luego!

Iguana Park

Posted by Connie Pombo on August 22, 2011 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (499)




Parque Seminario is often overlooked on a visit to Guayaquil, but I suggest that you don’t miss it. My little critter friends will be waiting for you at the Iguana Park!




























Right across the street from the park is “Catedral de Guayaquil” (Cathedral of Guayaquil), which is simply breathtaking with its graceful spires. You can catch some of the history of Guayaquil, see a statue of Simon Bolivar or play with the iguanas in the park.



















The iguanas hang from trees, sunbathe in the middle of the sidewalk, and even pose for pictures—if you ask! The only thing you can’t do is feed the little creatures. As tempting as it might be, they are well cared for by the “park rangers” who don’t take kindly to the fact that you want to share your ham sandwich with them.






The park and the cathedral were all decked out with wreaths and flowers when we were there (July 25th) which was “Founder’s Day” for Guayaquil. It wasn’t great timing on our part to be “alone” with the iguanas, but they didn’t seem to mind all the fanfare, crowds and parades.




Iguanas blend in so well with their surroundings that they can sometimes creep up on you, so be sure to watch your step!















Until next time…hasta luego!

Iguana Park Guayaquil Ecuador





Under Construction

Posted by Connie Pombo on August 13, 2011 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (1)






It’s hard not to notice all the new condos under construction in Cuenca. We live on the north side of town (Gringolandia) and new buildings are cropping up all over the place. If you miss a week, it’s already built (almost!).





 When I walk Mocha we usually head to our usual place along the river, but sometimes we venture down some of the side streets and I have to wonder, “Where did all these buildings come from?”

Last week, there was a flyer in the newspaper which listed all the new construction sites that now offer financing over a ten-year period. Some of the buildings I was familiar with (like the Rosenthanl), but the others I had no idea where they were located.



One of the questions I receive a lot is: “Should we rent or buy?” I really can’t answer that one for you! As long as our rent stays at $200 a month, we’ll be renters. Over a year’s time, it ends up being about as much as the price tag for my root canal back in the States. And we enjoy not having to take care of all the problems, like the leaky faucet that happened today. In ten minutes, the Oro Verde plumber was on our doorstep fixing it. Our cost: zero dollars. For once in our life, we’re enjoying not having to pay for all the “fixins”!




For those of you who would like to invest, there are a lot of opportunities. Some of the larger projects like “Las Praderas de Bemani” are entire communities within a community. And the building projections look a tad bit like a university campus. I’m partial to the Old Cuenca, so I’m slightly disappointed that “urban sprawl” has started to take over. It’s almost as if the architect handed out plans in small, medium, large and “super-size” it!

Here’s a partial list of what’s “constructing” in Cuenca:




Las Praderas de Bemani: Click here to see YouTube "virtual showing."




La Verbena  (3 and 4 bedrooms); Condos (1, 2 and 3 bedrooms); 30 percent down and 70 percent financed.

Condominio Orillas de Yanuncay: Av. 27 de Febrero. Information: 09-005-9385 or 08-551-7801.

Rivera del Carmen:

 Edificio Asturias: Starting at $42,000 (one bedroom, one bath); 25 condos, 7 penthouses, six suites (four floors), parks, shops, centralized gas, elevator and common area. Av. Iro de Mayo y Av. de las Americas. Tel: 09-849-3868.




Some of the projects are so new, they don’t have websites yet: Conjunto Miravalle, Torres Alhambra, Terrazas del Parque, Edificio Los Fresnos, and Edificio El Ejido. As more information is available, I’ll pass it on.

Construction is part of the landscape of Cuenca and I’m afraid that it’s not going away! The good news: you’ll have a lot of choices when you arrive.

Until  next time...hasta luego!


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Los Frailes

Posted by Connie Pombo on August 2, 2011 at 9:49 PM Comments comments (60)

Mark is in school teaching English at CEDEI, but I’m still back at the “beach" (in my mind, of course!). It’s only been a week since we returned from the coast and I'm already planning our next trip. If you only go to one place the whole time you’re in Ecuador, do not miss the pristine beach of Los Frailes. Some have gone so far as to call it the most beautiful beach on the Ecuadorian coast and I won’t argue with that!

After we arrived at Hosteria Mandala, we made arrangements to have a mototaxi take us to Los Frailes (20 minutes up the coast), or you can hop on a bus in Puerto Lopez for 40 cents.
The mototaxi was a fun ride, but a little bumpy when we got to the entrance of the park (cost: $2.00 per person). It felt more like a galloping horse than a taxi and it was a tad bit dusty. Our mototaxi “specialist” was Angel and he took us right up to the entrance of the beach and picked us back up at the designated time (3:00 p.m. – “en punto”;).
The cost was $10.00 roundtrip. I wouldn’t have missed that experience for anything. If you haven’t ridden in a mototaxi, you’re in for a real treat (no diesel fumes and it’s naturally air-conditioned). Just keep your hands inside the “vehicle.”

The wonderful thing about staying in Puerto Lopez is you’re close to the main attractions: Isla de la Plata, Los Frailes, Isla Salango, and Agua Blanca. Once at the entrance to the beach, there is a lovely “canteen” where you can buy souvenirs. I bought some lovely coral earrings and matching necklace ($2.00). Bring a beach umbrella if you have one, beach towels, and a picnic lunch. Hosteria Mandala will pack up a wonderful lunch for you and also send you on your way with beach towels (as many as you need).

Los Frailes is part of the Machalilla National Park which is a tropical dry forest along the central coast of Ecuador. The high temperatures, humidity and low precipitation make for an interesting mix of flora and fauna, mainly cactus, the Cockspur Coral Tree, and a variety of birds which makes it more of an oasis than a desert!
Mark and I decided to jump in the water first and enjoy the gentle surf. I stayed in longer and didn’t want to come out because the temperature was a perfect 72 degrees and felt so refreshing. I would caution you on cloudy days to slather on the sunscreen and keep reapplying. I got so carried away that I forgot to reapply after I got out of the water. I’m still peeling off layers of skin—especially on my feet.

After a light lunch, we explored the rocky inlets on both sides of the horseshoe-shaped beach and discovered a multitude of conch shells, several of which already had inhabitants which literally walked away on us! I found a total of 20 whole sand dollars which were brown, then turned green and now are bleaching themselves white in the sun (thanks to our balcony).  It was low tide while we were there, so we felt free to explore all the inlets and caves. However, I would caution you not to do this at high tide!

We had an hour before Angel was to pick us back up, so we decided to give “El Mirador” a try. The sign said it was a 20-minute walk, but I would allow 30 minutes because there’s so much to see on the way up the dusty steps, including the entire Ecuadorian coastline, exotic lizards, birds, and lots of cactus.

There are no retaining walls or fences, so be careful to take pictures from a distance and not perch yourself on the edge of the cliff as it’s a long way down. Bring lots of water! I ended pouring the entire bottle over me because I got overheated; wear a sun hat, and put on more sunscreen than you think you will need. At the top of “El Mirador” you will be rewarded with a panoramic view like none other. I was so busy oohing and ahhing, I didn’t realize there were other folks sitting on the look-out stand who had come to mediate. Mark shooshed me and I too had become quiet. It’s was windy, so be sure to hang on to your hat and other valuables.

It’s also a great place to catch the birds in flight and to enjoy a time of quiet reflection. After taking several videos and probably 100 pictures of the same coastline, we headed back down. I wore my running shoes and was thankful that I did because the steps can be a little slippery and it’s easy for your feet to get caught between the steps. We made the climb up and back within an hour which was perfect. Angel was waiting for us right on time at 3:00 p.m. and we made it back to see a gorgeous sunset at Puerto Lopez where we dined on the veranda at Hosteria Mandala.

Rest assured, we’ll be back to Los Frailes!
Until next time...hasta luego!

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We're Back!

Posted by Connie Pombo on July 28, 2011 at 1:57 PM Comments comments (336)" target="_blank">">

Some folks asked if we actually made it back from the coast because they hadn't heard from us! Well, we're back, but a part of us is still there. I knew I was going to miss "Los Frailes" so much that I made a video of it and uploaded it as soon as I got home. This morning I woke up and said to myself:  "No it wasn't a dream: you had a perfect vacation with amazing weather, great food; you 'swam' with the whales, giggled at the blue-footed boobies, snorkeled in the saphire blue waters of the Pacific and ate coconut ice cream--every night for dinner. And you saw lots of sunsets and clapped when the the 'show' was over!" It's safe to say that I'm going through major coastal withdrawal for which there is no cure except to get back on the bus and travel 7-1/2 hours up the coast to enjoy the pristine beaches of Los Frailes and the magical splendor of Hosteria Mandala. There were absolutely no disappointments on this trip and as the owner of the Hosteria Mandala said to us: "You brought the sun with you!" Normally, during this time of year, it's cloudy and only a handful of sunsets! We were fortunate enough to have three out of four sunset-filled evenings. The lazy days on the beach in my hammock sipping something with an umbrella in it, made me want to pitch a tent and claim my "plot."

Yes, I got sunburned even after slathering myself with SPF 100 (you have to reapply after you get out of the water). And I did get my share of mosquito bites (even with Off Bug Spray), but it was so worth it. And the boat ride to Isla de la Plata was almost worth the 1-1/2 hour ride of choppy water just to see the dancing whales blow off steam. It was more magnificent than I had imagined to see them rise up out of the water like creatures of the sea and dance on the water before doing a backwards belly flop into the ocean. I had almost forgotten that we weren't actually whale watching, we were on our way to Isla de la Plata to do some hiking and bird watching, but the whales stole the show! The blue-footed boobies and the frigate birds didn't disappoint either and each put on a show of their own. Since both species were mating, they went to extreme measures to strut their stuff. The frigate birds puffed up their red throats to get the attention of the "girls" and they must have been paying attention because we saw lots of little frigates and blue-footed boobies all over the island.

Be forewarned, it's a long day and our group decided they wanted to take the upper trail around the island which was four hours of walking, followed by lunch back on the boat, and snorkeling. If you are prone to sea sickness, be sure to take "Mareol" (dramamine) because you just might lose your breakfast like my shipmate did! Be sure to take it 20 minutes before you get on the boat. There are so many highlights of our trip, but our favorite day had to be at Los Frailes which is a pristine beach with an abundance of seashells which now grace our home. I played in the waves and swam in the gentle surf until my hubby dragged me to shore (kicking and screaming). We then took a hike up to "Mirador" which is not to be missed; you can see the entire Ecuadorian coastline from the lookout which is well worth the 20-minute climb.

Unlike most expats we took the bus and thoroughly enjoyed the experience: reclining seats, air-conditioning, his and her bathrooms that were immaculate, free snacks, and movies! When did riding a bus get to be so much fun? The Guayaquil bus station is a huge three-story complex with a shopping mall and food courts. My new obsession is "Sweet and Coffee." Watch out Starbucks, you've got some major competition and the price is right! Total cost per person from Cuenca to Guayaquil was $8.00 and our ride up to Puerto Lopez was $3.50.

I'll leave you with some highlights of Los Frailes...(our favorite part of the trip).Create your own video slideshow at Technorati Tags: los frailes, best beaches in ecuador, living and retiring in ecuador

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Let's Talk About Weather!

Posted by Connie Pombo on June 29, 2011 at 10:18 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the most common questions I receive is about the weather. Folks planning on visiting Cuenca check or, and then shoot me an e-mail that goes something like this: “I checked the forecast and it will be raining the entire two weeks of our visit to Cuenca!” And that statement is usually followed by a question, “Is it like Seattle there?”

It's definitely not Seattle in Cuenca, but some may think so during the months of April and May!

We have been here an entire year and I’ve tracked the weather with my “radar” and I’ve written down the days that it has rained (the weeks and the months). It’s appropriate to say that there is a fair amount of rain in Cuenca. When the glossy print magazines describe Cuenca, they use words like “perpetual spring” which means there is an abundance of rain and blooming flowers; we have both here!

Our Spanish teacher explained the seasons this way: March, April and May are the months of rain with April bringing "aguas mil" (a thousand waters). June, July, August and part of September are the months of "heladas" (winter), which are characterized by cool mornings, giving way to sun, windy afternoons and cool evenings. The remaining months: October, November, December, January and February are "summer," characterized by more sun and less rain.

The great thing about Cuenca is it's so easy to be forgiving about the weather. Even with seven straight days of clouds and rain, all “trespasses” are forgiven when the sun comes out. Today was one of those days! It started out with clouds and rain. In the afternoon it began to clear and the sky was a brilliant blue with white fluffy clouds (70 degrees). On days like today, I think to myself, How can anyone complain about the weather in Cuenca?

This morning when I walked Mocha, I slipped on a patch of ice! No kidding. For a moment I thought I was back on the streets of Philadelphia in the winter. It just so happened that a vendor threw his leftover ice on the sidewalk to “melt,” and I happened to trip on it! It was a great wake-up call. Whenever I’m tempted to complain about the rain, I think about how fortunate I am that I don’t have to shovel snow and ice anymore!

It’s safe to say that the weather is changing all around the world and Ecuador is no exception. Cuenca is in a unique position because of the altitude (8,300 feet); it’s where the weather forms. And that’s why it can actually rain while the sun is out or why we have hailstorms at a moment’s notice.

Coming from a California girl’s perspective, this is still paradise: no humidity, no extremes in temperature, no hot days with little relief in sight, and no snow to shovel! On the days that it’s cloudy and rainy, it reminds me of Northern California during the month of January. When the sun is shining and there are blue skies, it reminds me of Dana Point, California without the ocean breeze.

Personally, it's an ideal location: no need for a heater (yep, we made it all year without heating except for occasionally letting the oven door open to warm up the bricks) and no need for air conditioning. Weather wise, I don’t think there's any such thing as a perfect location, but this is just about as close as you can get!

Until next time...hasta luego!

It's Finished!

Posted by Connie Pombo on June 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM Comments comments (508)

I’ve been on a brief hiatus getting some writing projects completed and didn’t realize how long it’s been since I blogged until someone e-mailed me and said, “Are you dead?”

Well, I’m back!

While I was “absent,” the house down the road got finished! It started out as a plot, then a cement blob and now—after three months—it’s a beautiful new home.

The workers were kind enough to let me peek inside the windows and I was amazed at how modern and spacious it is—truly gorgeous. It’s 50 feet from the river, it’s on a corner lot with a yard and it’s part of a gated community. I’m not sure if it’s for sale, but it would be a great find (four bedrooms, 3-1/2 baths and the location is simply perfect).

There's only one catch! While I sat on the front steps—taking in the beauty of Cuenca’s weather at its best—I couldn’t help but notice the next door neighbor’s pet rooster. He sounded like he was laying eggs the way he was going at it. Mocha started barking and the rooster crowed louder and louder. So much for a perfect spot!

We recently had some friends move out in the country—thinking it would be quieter—and they ended up with two roosters and four dogs serenading them through the night. Sometimes if it looks too good to be true; it probably is!

Construction projects are part of the scenery in Cuenca these days: new high-rise condos, new homes and townhouses, and renovations on older places. It’s part of the new Cuenca! But I’m not so sure that I like the new, modern look. For some reason, I’m still in favor of the old Cuencano-style homes with the wrought iron balconies, red tile roofs and large wooden doors. It's what endeared me to Cuenca.

It’s sad to think that this lovely city is somehow getting buried under brick and mortar to meet construction demands.

But maybe it’s just not finished yet!

Until next time…hasta luego!

NOTE: For the full article with pictures, click here:

The Book is Done!

Posted by Connie Pombo on April 5, 2011 at 2:06 AM Comments comments (1031)


It's 1:06 AM in Ecuador and I'm pleased to say that in 24 hours, the Kindle version of the book, Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questons Answered will be available at a Kindle store near you! 

I will celebrate tomorrow, but now I think I'll go to sleep!

Until next time...hasta luego!